Dependable Leadership and Partnership with a Community in Eastern Kenya.
Last summer when I traveled back home I made it a priority to visit John Kaindi, who has been a community leader for the Ngu Nyumu and served as an elected district representative in the local government of Machakos County for two terms and proved to everyone living in the remote area that good leadership is possible and transformative even when serving challenged governments within Sub-Saharan Africa. His wisdom and sense of humor has always been sharp and remarkable when he has coordinated projects or community initiatives with the community members which has seen positive progress from his energy and ability to inspire his fellow elders as well as younger community members through fostering a sense of purpose in the community forging forward.
BRIAN: I have to bring it up to you that I admire your leadership in this village, your selfless approach in keep matters in this village progressive, your collaborative nature and your social consciousness is very admirable. What drives you in leading this community like you have done in the past years and even now?
JOHN: It stems from my many years when I served as the regional representative of this area, I was in charge of huge tracts of different districts before later leadership roles changed and I eventually was elected as the councilor by the people of this area. I learnt and gained much of my experience during my tenure but it’s been long since I retired from that position and now I’m focused on doing good for this community that I have always served. [Smiles] ‘I was born ready to lead’ that’s what my parents & uncles told me and empowered me to be. And my intention is to pass on that responsibility to people through example since age is really catching up and trustworthy folks need to know how to make things happen for this village.
BRIAN: There is a sense of hope I see in people from what I have seen in the past couple of days I have been here. It’s been almost 2 years since the new leaders were elected, what do think of the new Machakos county government – how has the leadership been impactful to the people?
JOHN: I think the new leader representing the county is very strategic and his plans if implemented well in the coming years then a lot of positive attributes will follow. More jobs have been created in a very short span, hospitals have been refurbished and equipped with state of the art equipment, ambulances and security vehicles have been increased to be at close proximity when contacted, all these are good things that we are seeing. Word out there is that the county government has invested in drilling rigs and plans to drill more wells around the county to increase availability of clean water for the people. There has been many projects for lifting unmaintained, and mismanaged facilities and infrastructure for example: dams that were forgotten and not functioning, were repaired in the early stages when the governor’s term began.
BRIAN: How do you see the future rolling in, if the local government implements the developments it has planned for?
JOHN: I see a brighter future for this county, it’s been forgotten by previous governments for many decades, reducing it to desperation for structures that work and any development will have a great impact in restoring it to better standards from now henceforth. Some of the changes I see been implemented have been long due and I am glad that now subsidy systems to increase cultivation of the land through sustainable and friendly ways will be supported to increase food production by more than 50%. The future to convert all dispensaries to community hospitals that meet World Health Organization standards of hospitals will improve health care and efficient attention of intensive cases. The focus to expand Rural Electrification with natural resources and renewable energy through the use of solar, bio-fuel and other sources of alternative energy will draw entry of industries and more opportunities.
BRIAN: What changes have you seen during your many years of living here?
JOHN: The major one has been unpredictable rainfall seasons have been common in the past years since we experienced El Nino floods in 1998. This has led to lesser agricultural production and as a result more and more farmers have lacked enough resources to sustain their crop farming and reliance like they did in the past and this has forced many young children to engage in unskilled labor to help support their families at earlier ages such as transporting people with motorbikes.
BRIAN: Based on your wealth of knowledge what are some of the challenges that need to be addressed for better community living here?
JOHN: I think more farmers need to be trained on modern and sustainable farming methods to improve production of varied farm produce. Development of collective methods of selling produce to available markets can play a large role in helping the farmers become less worried on how and where to sell their produce. The youth here need empowerment and direction to get opportunities in employment or with their own enterprises. Proper policies need to be implemented to regulate sand harvesting which is now very common in this village and regulate the market price so as to benefit the people while protecting the environment.
BRIAN: What solutions would you suggest for agricultural development for families to be self-reliable?
JOHN: By helping farming families to increase production in a sustainable way, and sell more crops, is the most effective way to increase reliability over the long term. When farmers grow more food and earn more income, they are better able to feed their families, send their children to school, provide for their family’s health, and invest in their farms. This will make families in this community become economically stronger and more stable.
BRIAN: What do you see in the youth and what do you think it will take for them to thrive in this community?
JOHN: They are vital contributors to farm work, they need access to improved seeds, better techniques and technologies, and markets to thrive. Addressing these areas can help them become more productive and reduce uncertainty within them. Other areas that will boost production is access to effective tools and farm management practices, locally relevant knowledge, emerging digital technologies and advocating agricultural policies that support farmers in their effort to better feed themselves and communities.
BRIAN: I have to thank you for donating the two pieces of land that the Magical-Well which through the coordination of Friends of Woni International and funding from the Santa Barbara North Rotary Club was drilled and a receiving main tank was built for distribution. How do you feel today when you see the results that came about from this project?
JOHN: It was an easy decision that I made without a lot of thought and together with my wife we put our heart and soul in deeding out to the community for the project to be done. I am glad to see that we dedicated that land to better use to serve the many families in this community and it was very fulfilling to see the success that has come from this project and also for my family since we drink from the same well. It’s also been great to see how this project has brought people of this community closer and have something in common to manage which helps in many ways and reduces alienations through the increase of something of commonness in ensuring that progress is made in varied ways to increase our development.
BRIAN: How involved have the women of the village been involved in this project and managing it?
JOHN: First, we have in place a Community Based Organization that has a team of 12 Board Members of whom 8 are women serving to implement regulations on managing the water well project. We have also constructed 6 water kiosks which are all managed by employed ladies who are also responsible for reporting any circumstance that is noticed for addressing by the board members.
BRIAN: How have the families of this village benefited from the water well and how have they made use of it besides drinking?
JOHN: Some homes have been able to use the water for vegie farming, others have focused on dairy farming and generally speaking I would say that sanitation has improved a great deal which has led to improved child health which in turn has created economic benefits through increased productivity, reduced healthcare costs, and prevention of waterborne illnesses as well as disabilities from carrying jerry-cans.
BRIAN: Which other projects have come up recently and been positive for this community?
JOHN: The latest and ongoing is the Kyaani High School which was a collective project that was funded by the locals through individual and family donations in the form of land, stones, building materials and money to build the school to ensure that children don’t have to travel to far away locations to get access to a quality learning environment. Currently the school has close to 200 students and building is still ongoing, the next phase is to construct a dormitory for girls to board in the school.
BRIAN: How crucial was it for the locals to build a local high school within the surrounds of this village and how impactful has it been for the children?
JOHN: We are seeing more children graduating from the local primary and joining the high school for higher learning unlike in the past whereby a majority would either end their school after graduating to start working and others would drop out before graduating since progressing to high school seemed to be far-fetched for the poorer families in the community. We hope that many students who graduate from high school will have an opportunity to proceed further to college and university and bring back better solutions for the communities future’s like we have seen with some of the few from around who were fortunate to complete high school and college by giving direction for the community.
BRIAN: What changes do you foresee with the Kyaani High School in the coming years once the main developments and much needed infrastructures are put in place?
JOHN: It’s definitely going to give the community especially the teens a great opportunity to get an education beyond primary school which will lead to more graduates from this community joining higher learning institutions and thus paving the way for young adults acquiring skilled labor and experience from diverse lines of work which I believe will shine light to many young people from around and many families will be affected positively once we have more well-educated folks with professional jobs from the homesteads. It’s obvious too that many young girls will be able focus better with their education by having the opportunity to board at the school which will increase their study time based on the fact that they will not be responsible for domestic chores and walking to and from school every day which puts a lot of pressure on them that leads to failure in their studies and as a result, they start families at tender ages which results to more poverty down the line.